August 26, 2005

"Oh look, it's a lovely spider and it's eating a butterfly!"

The cover art is such a paste-job that it took a few seconds to realize I had just fished from the Jiffy Pak one of my personal holy grails (regardless of the fact that I'd never actually seen it): Jack Clayton's 1961 masterpiece The Innocents. The Innocents has the distinction of being the film recommended to me by more people than any other, and when the consensus is that overwhelming, it becomes my moral obligation, as the kind of guy who had a subscription to VIDEO REVIEW--a periodical in which detailed assessments of video transfers appended original reviews by the likes of Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell--at the age of twelve, to pre-empt any mitigating circumstances (e.g. the wrong aspect ratio, commercial interruptions) for not enjoying the film.

The Innocents had me from the thirty seconds of pitch black that open the film (and, in an extraordinarily modern gesture, precede the 20th Century Fox logo), over which a little girl croons the chilling, melancholy "O Willow Waly," a persuasively timeless ditty written by future scribe of the Planet of the Apes sequels Paul Dehn. The only other Clayton films I've seen are The Great Gatsby (which is hamstrung by Francis Ford Coppola's deadeningly literal-minded adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel) and Something Wicked This Way Comes, which, although probably the best entry in Disney's horror cycle, in no way prepares you for Clayton's conversance with genre here. A more detailed review of the film and disappointingly bare-bones DVD to follow (below, find a video capture comparing the disc's widescreen and fullscreen viewing options), but the long and the short of it is, this is the movie that Alejandro Amenábar's curiously ephemeral The Others wanted to be...and then some. It was worth the wait.


Walter_Chaw said...

Innocents, man, what a fucking movie. Beats the holy hell out of weak-kneed modern pretenders like Exorcism of Emily Rose and Skeleton Key.

Barry Wood said...

I'm watching Columbo movies on dvd I borrowed from the library. The first one is "Prescription: Murder." It's dated 1968, and the movie is dated, but it's kind of nice to watch simple mysteries. I'll be curious about the other 12 movies on the dvds.

Bill C said...

Those "Columbo" movies can be a lot of fun. When you get to Murder by the Book, remember that it was directed by a kid named Steven Spielberg.